Matthew Bronfman:”Free and thriving Jewish community in Russia is a wonderful example of basic human rights that benefits the entire society”
November 22, 2016
Chairman of Limmud FSU International Steering Committee Matthew Bronfman’s speech at Jewish Museum and Tolerance center :
“Thank you so much for that overly kind introduction. It is indeed a pleasure to be here and to be with all of you tonight at this beautiful event on behalf of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance center.
I first visited Moscow about 26 years ago with my late Father, World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman. He dedicated 25 years of his life to helping secure a Jewish future for Jews throughout the world. His tireless efforts were hugely instrumental in the opening of the gates for Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, to the US and other locals as well. He was a champion of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, often called ”Let My People Go”. In addition, and central to his mission, was to make sure that we would be free to practice our religion wherever we decided to live.
For the past decade I have been the Chairman of Limmud For Russian Speaking Jews. Limmud is a movement that connects and educates marginally connected young Russian Jews to their heritage. During our weekend long events, Learning happens across so many different disciplines such as art, politics, entrepreneurship, poetry, history, Torah, just to name a few. Our
conferences are consistently sold out and in the past year alone we have had 5 weekend long events in the FSU that were attended by over 7,500 young, enthusiastic Jews, searching for identity and community.
Our weekend event here in Moscow was attended by 2,000 people. We have also had 5 of our weekend long conference outside of the FSU, solely for Russian speaking Jews, in Australia, Canada, NYC, Los Angeles and next month in Eilat, Israel. The upcoming event in Eilat will be attend by 2,000 people and was sold out, through on line registration only, in 90 minutes. The movement we have created is often referred to “Let My People Know”.
Times have changes greatly in the last quarter century for our people, especially here in Russia. Today we can walk the streets with a kippah and not feel threatened. We a have many many synagogues and our holiday services are not being held in secret. The relationship between Russia and Israel is strong and open, and we are indeed grateful for the freedoms we have here. Today Israel has diplomatic relations with more countries than ever before.
However, if we are to become complacent, we are putting our future at risk. We must be students of history and history is a harsh reminder. In Europe today the picture is sadly, very, very different for our people than it was even a decade ago. A wave of anti semitism has been sweeping over Europe and has resulted in the massacres in Paris, Brussels, and Nice. Jews have been leaving France and other European countries in record numbers.
The far right parties are set to win elections in Austria, and are running very strong in France and Sweden. Anti semitism and anti Zionism are becoming one and the same. It is becoming politically acceptable in capitals across Europe to engage in the delegitimization of Israel. We must do everything we can to reverse this trend. My fiends, this will not be easy, but it is critical.
If we are not fighting for our rights and for the rights of Israel, we can not guarantee our future. Having travelled the globe on behalf of the Jewish people for many years, and as an active participant in the Israeli economy and society, it is clear that we, the diaspora, and Israel, need each other . We need each other to be strong, to be just, to be a light unto the nations. Again, the emergence of a free and thriving Jewish community in Russia is a wonderful example of basic human rights that benefits the entire society.
By creating the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center you have made and are making a very strong and powerful statement which everyone needs to hear and see, a statement about human dignity, justice, equality, human rights and accepting the other. And in many ways the Museum is also a statement of permanence. My grandfather was born in the Soviet Empire. The Jewish people have always been a part of Russian society and your support of the Museum helps ensure that we always will be.
Tonight you have raised over $1.0 for the Endowment Fund for the Museum. The Fund is critically important so that all Russians will be able to visit and learn the lessons that are the Museum is teaching, lessons of human dignity, tolerance and justice.